As Bullying Prevention Month comes to a close, we wanted to go out with a bang. So we reached out to one of the nation's preeminent authorities on the topic-- Author and Cyber-Advocate Sue Scheff to find what she had to say... Every October it's Bullying Prevention Month. Bullying no longer is limited to the playground, cafeteria, schools or your neighborhood -- it now can follow your child home through their virtual lives. Cyberbullying never takes a day off. It doesn't recognize holidays and has never taken a summer break. October is a month to gain more insights on prevention from online abuse as well as how to keep your child stay safer while in their cyberspace - which is now considered their playground. We don't have to go over the statistics of cyberbullying and online abuse, by now we know that the majority of tweens and teens are digitally connected - as a matter of fact, a PEW Study reported that some teens are constantly wired. It's simply the world we live in today, but it's also why we have to be more proactive in keeping in-tune with our children's cyber-life offline. Consistently and constantly have chats with them, whether it's during meal time, while driving in the car or during a sports outing, asking them about their virtual lives is imperative to getting to know more about their cyber-activities. Take it a step further, ask them to teach you something new on your phone or tablet - the fact is, our teen is likely to be more tech savvy than us, so take advantage of it. You will end up learning more than expected.
Cyber-harassment is not new. Although many kids and teens are taught to stop, block and tell -- many of them won't tell an adult or a parent for a few reasons. Primarily for fear of embarrassment and being ashamed and of course, not wanting to lose their life-line to their friends - the Internet. What can you do to let your child or teen know that no matter what is going on in their virtual life, you are their parent and their advocate? It can start with simply discussing what it means to be an “upstander” or an advocate for someone.
Reminding your child you are their advocate frequently is important, not only offline, but especially online.
Having your child understand the meaning of being an upstander and an advocate can help build the bond of trust that you are there for them always -- without judgment.
Encourage your child to be an advocate and upstander for others online too, especially when they witness online cruelty. Most people know it's important not to engage with a bully online, but that doesn't mean you can't reach out to the target. Being an upstander and cyber-advocate:
Cyber-hugs are priceless. People need to know that others care about them and are there for them in virtual-friendship. Find that right social-sticker to express your cyber-hug. Lift their spirits - give them sunshine on their dismal day.
Stop untrue messages or rumors from spreading. If you witness a false statement or an unflattering photo of your friend or someone you know, don't laugh or help it go viral -- take immediate steps to stop it. Make it clear you don't think this behavior is cool or funny, especially when it is false and cruel.
Be a friend to the new kid on the block. It's tough moving to a new school. Make it a point to find kids eating alone, reach out and learn more about them. Welcome the new students, both in person and on your digital social groups. They will appreciate it! Remember, it could be you someday.
Let's see a rise in the number of upstanders today! As Bullying Prevention Month comes and goes, we must continue to build an army of cyber-advocates and upstanders to curb cyber-cruelty and be there when people need each other both offline - and especially, online.
Co-author of Google Bomb: The Untold Story of the $11.3M Verdict That Changed the Way We Use the Internet, Sue Scheff is a strong proponent of proactively protecting oneself online. First published in 2009, Google Bomb draws from Sue Scheff’s personal experiences with online bullying, privacy invasion, and harassment, as well as the legal recourse available, to provide readers with the tools they need to protect their personal and professional reputations online.